UPDATE: Former Police Officer Sentenced To Probation

By: WTAP News Email
By: WTAP News Email

Update: 8/23/2012 6:00 P.M.

Five seconds In a video from the Wood County Holding Center, ended a police officer's career.

It happened last October 15th, when Sgt. Joshua Vensel was confronted by Jerry Seabolt, a suspect arrested on charges of battery and public intoxication. Seabolt was being processed at the holding center at the time of the incident.

As Vensel's attorney, Bill Merriman, explains: "Josh hit Mr. Seabolt with a left hook and dropped him, unconscious. He looked like a wet noodle-bam-down on the ground, and it took him a while to regain consciousness."

The police department has come under fire for this and other incidents. Merriman argued the department's policies allow the use of force by an officer confronted by a suspect.

"If this, in fact, is found to be a criminal violation, the city of Parkersburg should change their use of force continuum, because these officers believe if someone puts up his fists, they can hit him."

In sentencing Vensel, Judge Jeff Reed noted that he lost his status as a police officer when he resigned from the force in May. But part of that status also included his family history. His mother worked as a secretary to the police chief for years, and his father also worked as a police officer with the city of Parkersburg.

"He was depressed, he was sad, he was embarrassed," his mother, Gail, said on the witness stand Thursday. "He felt like he let his father down, let us down, let the department down."

While apologizing to Seabolt, who was in the courtroom for the sentencing, Vensel also defended his actions.

"The unfortunate thing about split-second decisions is not having to choose the best," Vensel told the court. "I hope by reading more about me by those you consider closest, you'll know the outcome was unfortunate, my intent was not malicious in any sense or definition."

While Vensel has been sentenced, he still faces a civil suit filed by Seabolt, who was hospitalized after the incident. The police department also still faces suits relating to this and other incidents.

Judge Reed initially sentenced Vensel to 90 days in the regional jail, but suspended that sentence.

UPDATE: 8/23/2012

Former Parkersburg Police Sgt. Joshua Vensel has been sentenced to probation.

Initially Vensel was sentenced to 90 days in jail, to be served at the North Central Regional Jail. Judge Jeff Reed suspended that sentence and sentenced Vensel to probation.

Stay tuned to WTAP-TV & WTAP.COM for the latest.


Update: 5/03/2012 2:30 P.M.

In a plea agreement, Joshua Vensel pleaded guilty to one count of battery.

He was originally indicted on two counts, for the beating of prisoner Jerry Seabolt last October 11.

As part of the agreement, Vensel surrendered his law enforcement certificate and agreed to not seek other law enforcement work.

His attorney, Bill Merriman, also told us after the hearing Thursday morning vensel resigned from the force.

His sentencing is scheduled for August 23rd.

Vensel faces one year in prison.

UPDATE: 1/31/2012 6:15 PM

J.A. Vensel is accused of attacking a suspect, Jerry Seabolt. Seabolt was in custody at the time.

Vensel is charged with misdemeanor battery. If found guilty, he could face one year in jail and a 500 dollar fine.

He's currently on paid administrative leave from the department. The FBI is also investigating.
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UPDATE: 10/31/11 6:30 PM

A special grand jury handed up 8 indictments Monday, one of them in the case of the officer allegedly involved in The Wood County Holding Center altercation.

Vensel is facing charges of misdemeanor battery.

Prosecutor Jason Wharton says battery is either causing physical harm or making physical contact of a insulting or provoking nature.

If found guilty, Vensel could face up to a year in jail.

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin, says until the internal investigation is complete, no action on the employment of Vensel will be taken.

Although the investigation should be complete this week, Chief Martin says Vensel will be facing significant discipline.

Vensel is currently on administrative leave.

When Wharton was made aware of the alleged altercation in the holding center, he contacted the West Virginia Sate Police to conduct an outside investigation.

Sergeant Yoast from the Braxton County detachment of the state police investigated, and Wharton presented the evidence to the grand jury.

"Misdemeanor offense can either go by criminal complaint to the magistrate court or it can be presented to a grand jury for 16 members of the public to evaluate the evidence and decide weather or not charges should be filed and we elected to present this case to the grand jury," Wharton said.

A warrant will be issued for Vensel this week, and he will have the opportunity to turn himself in.

Vensel's bond was set at $2500.

A trial will be set at a later date.
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UPDATE: 10/19/11 6:00PM

The investigation is continuing into an altercation last weekend at the Wood County Holding Center, involving a Parkersburg policeman and a man being taken into custody.

Wood County Prosecutor, Jason Wharton, says that Sgt. Yost, from the Braxton County Detachment of the WV State Police, is expected back in town, Thursday, to continue his work.

Wharton asked the state police to conduct an outside investigation into the incident, involving Parkersburg Police Sgt. J.A. Vensel and 40-year-old Jerry Seabolt.

Vensel has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

A date for Seabolt's hearing, on charges of public intoxication, battery, and obstruction, hasn't yet been set in magistrate court.

Wharton also said that the video of the incident won't be released to the public or the news media until it is called into evidence at any trial that the case may require.

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A Parkersburg Police officer is on paid administrative leave, after an altercation with a suspect at the Wood County Holding Facility.

Mayor Robert Newell says that Sgt. J. A. Vensel was placed on leave and will remain there until an internal investigation of the incident is finished. Vensel has been with the police department for several years. The Mayor also identified the other party in the incident as being 40 year-old Jerry Seabolt.

Police Chief Joe Martin says he has viewed a video of the alleged incident, adding that the incident was not included in Sgt. Vensel's Saturday night report, as it should have been.

The alleged incident took place Saturday night as Seabolt was being processed into the Holding Facility, located on Second Street. According to the Wood County Magistrate’s office, Seabolt had been arrested by Parkersburg police on charges of battery and public intoxication and is also now facing a charge of obstruction. He is out on bond and will appear in Wood County magistrate court at a later date.

Prosecutor Jason Wharton says he contacted the superintendent of the West Virginia State Police to ask that a state policeman from outside the area do an investigation of the incident. Wharton says that officer has been in Wood County today conducting that investigation. Wharton would not speculate on when that investigation would be completed.

Chief Joe Martin says that Seabolt was taken to a Parkersburg hospital after the alleged incident but was not admitted and was then taken to Magistrate Court for his appearance, where he was later released.

Sheriff Sandy would not confirm whether there was any video of the alleged incident, but he told WTAP News that, “almost everything that goes on there is videoed.”

Sandy stressed that a person who is being processed into the Holding Facility is not officially in the County’s custody, until that processing has been completed and the person has been medically cleared for admittance. The person remains in the custody of the arresting officers until that time. Sandy also said his department contacted the prosecutor and also contacted the Parkersburg Police Department after the incident, as it does in all such incidents.

Chief Martin says he has viewed a video of the alleged incident. Martin said he first learned about the incident in a phone call from Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy on Monday afternoon (Oct. 17). Sandy says he contacted both Martin and the Prosecutor upon learning about the incident.

Chief Martin said that he informed Vensel that he would be placed on administrative leave, both in person and in writing. Martin said that Vensel will not have the use of his police cruiser or his police weapon while he is on leave.
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A criminal investigation is underway into an alleged incident that happened at the Wood County Holding Center over the weekend.

Authorities are not releasing any details at this time.

Wood County Prosecutor Jason Wharton confirmed an altercation did happen and says an officer and an inmate are both being investigated.

Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell says he is aware of the investigation and was told an inmate was transported to an area hospital, not treated, then returned to the holding center.

Stay tuned to WTAP-TV and WTAP.com for the latest developments on this story.


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